I’ve spent a lot of time the past few days thinking about the Final Four, John/Jim Beilein’s (you know you’ve called him both in random conversations this week) development of his coaching style and overall program, Sister Jean’s hat swag and Jay Wright’s suits. The offenses, the lack of offenses, the defenses and the lack of defenses. The collision between two college blue bloods and the collision between two of the hottest programs we’ve seen in March.
I’ve also spent a lot of time trying to figure out what Final I want to watch more. Is it time for Cinderella and her chaplain to leave the ball? Can Michigan keep up with either of the No. 1 seeds on the other side of the bracket that can fill it up from the perimeter? Do you want to watch Kansas’ Udoka Azubuike huff and puff his way into four quick fouls against Moritz Wagner? Is there anyone that can jump in front of this run away Super Nova?
After going over each team with a fine tooth comb (Is there such a thing as a dull tooth comb? Sharp tooth?), there is only one match up that I want to watch on Monday…
The Wildcats, the Ramblers and the Holy Spirit. Sister Jean vs. Father Rob. Jay Wright’s Suits vs. Porter Moser’s ties. Mikal Bridges vs. Ben Richardson. Augustinian basketball vs. Jesuit basketball.
Not sold? Well, did you know that if Loyola makes it to the Final, they would be the FIRST 11-seeded team in NCAA history to win a game in the Final Four. It would also make them the first team seeded lower than eighth to accomplish the feat as well. One more win would push the Ramblers past VCU, George Mason and LSU as the greatest Cinderella of all time. Not bad for a team that was unranked and a game away from NOT being in the tournament whatsoever.
Loyola isn’t the only team looking to make (or make more) history either. As of today, Villanova has 134 wins over the last four years which is the most wins in a four year span in NCAA history. Adding two more wins and another championship might make that record, in today’s iteration of college basketball, unreachable.
Still not moving the needle?
Have you considered that for an entire season, Villanova has both looked and played like the perfect college basketball team? Jay Wright’s 4-out-1-in offense plays with as much pace and space as NBA teams (Omari Spellman, the Wildcats starting center is 62-139 from beyond the arch) and their defense is just as stingy. In fact, when the shots aren’t falling, Villanova has no problem leaning into their D and suffocating their opponent until the drought ends.
And the drought always ends:
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 17, 2018
Still not sure?
Did you know that there may be some Twitter shade being thrown around?
— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) March 26, 2018
Until Loyola is eliminated, Sister Jean will be the only clergy of record. The NCAA recently released its media schedule for the Final Four that includes this note: There will be a 15-minute breakout session featuring Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt from 9:55-10:10 a.m. on Friday. This will take place in one of the breakout rooms located down the hall from the media workroom; signage will be available to direct everyone to those rooms. Please note that this is the only time Sister Jean will be made available to the media this weekend.
Which is in keeping for a media star whose bobblehead set a record on Monday morning. According to the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum (yes, that’s a real place; it’s in Milwaukee) the nun’s statue was selling at a rate of 1.7 per minute, easily surpassing the previous mark set for a bobblehead commemorating the Clemson football national title.
There is no Father Rob bobblehead. Or media session. Or gear. Or gif.
“Hey, I’m happy they have the bobblehead,’’ Hagan says, pausing for effect.
“And I’m glad we have Jalen Brunson.’’
I can’t begin to tell you how badly I hope Sister Jean starts off her “breakout” session with a friendly WWE style promo challenging Father Rob and Jalen Brunson to a Tag Team Battle Royale against her and Ben Richardson.
Speaking of, did you know that Ben Richardson is one of the smoothest jump shooters in college basketball? Did you know that he went 6-7 from three (1-3 from inside the arch) for 23-points against Kansas State — a program that overlooked that Kansas native? Did you know that he was ALSO the Missouri Valley Defensive Player of the Year? Did you know that he was in such a rhythm in the Elite Eight that he was making jumpers like this?
Ben Richardson is making it RAIN pic.twitter.com/4WpOXhrPQ1
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 24, 2018
That’s a bad, bad man. A bad, bad man that was pushed to “shoot more” from his teammates. A bad, bad man that is, like, the third or fourth best player on the squad.
But that’s what makes Loyola and Villanova, so special. Both teams are complete; their rosters filled with players that never shy away from the moment. Players that can step in when the starters are struggling to find their footing or injured and provide a jolt of much needed energy. Players that have earned every bit of adulation that is being thrown their way.
Behind them all?
Two coaching staffs that have built and maintained a culture predicated on showing up, putting in the work, establishing their will and winning.